UK holiday firm SLG collapses with 2,500 job losses

Jasper Jolly
Photograph: redsnapper/Alamy Stock Photo

The owner of coach holiday operator Shearings has collapsed into administration, with 2,460 immediate job losses and thousands of holiday cancellations.

Specialist Leisure Group (SLG), which also owns brands including UKBreakaways.com, Wallace Arnold Travel, and hotel chains Bay Hotels, Coast & Country and Country Living, said all tours, cruises, holidays and hotel breaks in the UK and abroad have been cancelled and would not be rescheduled. The company stopped taking bookings on Thursday.

Insolvency specialists from accountancy firm EY have been appointed as administrator to SLG after efforts to find a buyer for the company’s 44 hotels and travel brands failed.

EY said that “the vast majority of customers” were expected to have financial protection through insurance schemes such as Atol or the Bonded Coach Holidays Scheme, or through their credit or debit card issuers. The administrators said they will try to contact any customers with cancelled bookings, with refund claims able to be submitted for another six months.

The Wigan-based company focused on tours, events and river cruises for the over 50s. More than 2,200 SLG staff had been furloughed as the company tried to cope with all of its bookings being cancelled during the coronavirus lockdown.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak this month extended the furlough scheme, under which the government pays 80% of workers’ wages, until October, but travel companies have moved to make redundancies, given the likelihood of a slow recovery for tourism as travel restrictions drag on. Lost revenue is unlikely to be recouped by customers taking extra holidays at a later date.

Other travel companies have already drafted plans for thousands of redundancies, including a succession of airlines such as British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Ryanair.

Tour operator Tui cut 8,000 jobs, citing “unquestionably the greatest crisis the industry and Tui has ever faced”.

Hays Travel, which rescued 555 Thomas Cook shops from administration last year, has put essential staff on half pay while others had their hours cut, including 880 who went on to zero-hours contracts.

PwC had been working with SLG and shareholder Lone Star, a private equity investor, to find a buyer.

Sam Woodward, one of the administrators from EY, said: “The group has been significantly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic as all tours, trips and events have been cancelled and the hotels closed to the public, leading to a significant cash shortfall.

“The directors of the group have been in discussions with a number of parties, seeking a going concern buyer for the business. Unfortunately, despite interest in the group as a whole and in parts, no viable transaction structure was able to be agreed and, as a result, the group was placed into administration.”

About 70 employees will stay on to wind down the company.